Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hike Through History: Trail of Tears State Park and Sheppard's Point Trail

Trail of Tears State Park, to me, is that "homely" girl in the sappy love movie. You know the one that no one pays any attention to and calls a geek, then, suddenly, she lets down her hair and takes off her glasses to reveal she's smokin' hot! For me, that is the tale of Trail of Tears State Park and this gal seems to have something for everyone: fishing, swimming, horse trails, picnicking, camping, backpacking, beautiful scenic overlooks, bird watching (people "flock" from all over to watch the Bald Eagle migration), Mississippi River access, hiking and so much more!


Now, I am no stranger to Trail of Tears, in college, friends and I would escape our campus confines and seek out the coolness of Lake Boutin for a dip or cast of the line, while partaking a few tasty cold beverages and observing the local bikini-clad "wildlife". Here's a quick note to those that may wish to also take a dip in Lake Boutin, wear shoes or water socks. There are still some old school pop tops (I put in this picture link because I realized a lot of folks may have no idea what that is) buried in some of the sand here so protect those tootsies! However, I was a trail virgin to over thirteen miles of pristine and well maintained trails the park harbored and after a quick internet search found that the three mile Sheppard's Point Trail could be a great "go to" hike for me and the family!
The parasitic beech drop.
Photo found on Wikipedia

Trail  of Tears State Park is very, very well marked and navigating from place to place within the park is very easy and directions are clear and evident. Upon arriving at the Sheppard's Point Trail Head, we noticed a few other cars, but we would never spot our fellow trail hikers (or hear them for that matter). We unloaded and leashed our "boys" Hudson and Hyatt, snatched our water bottles from the cooler, tightened up our laces and hit the dirt trail that headed straight into the hardwood forest. As we hiked, white oak, American beech, cucumber magnolia and beautiful tulip poplars lined the trail, as the dirt path took us to the tops of ridges and into deep valleys. Beneath the trees we saw brilliant green ferns and I took special note to look out for a rare plant, the parasitic beech drop, siphoning nutrients from the roots of the American beech.

The trail itself has some condition issues in spots (holes and root growth) and can be steep in places, but each incline of the trail is slowly adding up to one heck of a view! Nearly halfway through the hike is an awe inspiring vantage of the Mississippi River and a perfect place to take a quick rest and recharge while watching barges and tugboats navigate the mighty (and muddy) river. This point is also a prime observation point for bald eagles, particularly during the winter months. Also watch out below, there are some great drop offs that you can perch on to garner an even better view of the river, or peer directly over the edge to watch trains travel with their goods along the rails below.

After taking our break and watering both ourselves and the boys, we began to complete the Sheppard's Point loop and once back at the car, we all found that the trip was beyond enjoyable, if not a bit rough traveling up and down though. It seems as though we would be back, and soon to take a trip on another Trail of Tears hiking route... The Peewah Trail.

More Information:

Sheppard's Point Trail Map

Trail of Tears State Park
429 Moccasin Springs
Jackson, MO 63755-8295
(573) 290-5268(573) 290-5268

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